By Tafadzwa Chigandiwa
President Emmerson Mnangagwa has described the death of prominent Roman Catholic priest, Father Emmanuel Ribeiro who played a crucial role during Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle as a very painful experience to him.
Father Ribeiro died aged 86 at St Annes hospital in Harare, Thursday morning.
The cause of his death has not yet been disclosed.
In his condolence message, Mnangagwa narrated how Father Ribeiro saved his life after he had been sentenced to death by the colonial government facing a treason charge.
“In the case of condemned former prisoners like myself, his figure became one of the only contacts we had with the outside world. Or the only and last human being one would see before one met one’s cruel fate at the hands of colonial authorities.
“His religious chores as a prison chaplain thus brought him in direct contact with souls in acute distress. Indeed, it exposed him to horrid scenes of settler penal cruelty, scenes which haunted him to his last day in this life.
“A good many of these he had vainly tried to save without success in each case weighing down on his conscience.
“I mourn his passing on as one of the few lucky ones he was able to rescue from the gallows, a development which makes his demise particularly poignant and quite painful to me personally.
“Alongside the late Sister Aquina, late Moven Mahachi and Sekuru Tangwena, Father Ribeiro played a key role which ensured the late Cdes Robert Gabriel Mugabe and Edgar Zivanai Tekere absconded to Mozambique for purposes of leading the struggle after the assassination of Cde Herbert Chitepo — chairman of our party then in exile. Until the attainment of independence in 1980, his commitment to the liberation struggle was unwavering,”
Till the time of his death the priest had composed over 17 songs for the catholic church and penned books.
He was also part of the committee which penned the Zimbabwean national anthem and designed the national flag.